Written by: Matt Miles, Matt Miles Fly Fishing
After a long cold winter of fattening up on shad, freshwater striped bass begin to feel the urge for a little romance with the longer, warmer days of spring. Each year, stripers make their journey out of lakes, reservoirs, and the ocean to spawn in our freshwater rivers. The fishery in Virginia is one of only two self-sustaining freshwater runs in the country. (The other is in South Carolina.)
After months of hunting muskies, I look very forward to the striped bass migration. Spring is a great time of year: Turkeys are gobbling, trees are budding, and one of the hardest hitting and pulling fish in freshwater is in the river. There’s nothing like stripping in a streamer and having the line jerked from your hand. Once you have a striper on, you not only are dealing with the hard pull of the fish, but you also have the current to contend with. These tough fighters are enough in slow water but adding the river to the mix makes it a bit more interesting.
They are here to spawn, but they eat any- and everything in their path. A river that holds many species of fish all of a sudden turns into striper mayhem. When the stripers show, the rest of the resident fish seem to disappear, and can’t say I blame them.
The average striped bass caught on the fly are 20 to 24 inches. We occasionally hook and sometimes land bigger ones. The run starts in April and goes to mid May. Once the water reaches prime spawning temps, the stripers do their thing and start making their way back to the lake.
Unfortunately it doesn’t last long, but I love every second of it when they are in the river.
Matt Miles is an Orvis Endorsed Guide living in Central Virginia with his wife, son, and two dogs. Matt guides for trout, smallmouth bass, musky, and freshwater stripers.